On June 18, 1776, a fugitive slave ad advised the public that a “negro woman” named Florimell had escaped captivity.
She was described as having “scars in her face” and being “not very black.”
The advertiser made it known that there would be a reward for her return and all expenses would be paid.
You may be wondering where this ad was placed.
Specifically, you may be wondering from which part of the United States – or maybe the Caribbean – Florimell had escaped.
But that ad was placed in a local paper here in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
You see, the sad reality is many Canadians don’t realize that slavery took place here on our soil. But for too long, this crucial part of our history has been overlooked and disregarded.
Canada’s relationship to slavery has been primarily understood through the stories of the Underground Railroad while the 200-year history of enslaved people in what is now Canada has not been given the intellectual and social contemplation it so rightly deserves.
It is a hidden history that has impacts on our experiences today. Together, here at NSCAD, we’ve begun to change that. In a moment, I’ll explain how you can be a part of that change.
But first, please allow me a moment to introduce myself and tell you about the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery, which I recently established here at NSCAD University.
My name is Dr. Charmaine A. Nelson. In 2020, I was proud to join the NSCAD University team as the university’s first Tier 1 Canada Research Chair. My field is Transatlantic Black Diasporic Art and Community Engagement.
As many of us courageously move forward to confront systemic racism and overcome generations of discrimination, the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery is one of the most important undertakings happening at a Canadian post-secondary institution today.
There is no other dedicated, specialized initiative of this kind in Canada.
Let me tell you more about our ground-breaking work.
We empower scholars, artists, creators, designers, filmmakers, and others to explore Canadian Slavery by providing support for their research, scholarship, and a diverse range of artistic and cultural outcomes. We seek to excavate the histories that have been too long hidden, to better understand the lives of enslaved people and the lasting impacts this institution has had on our social fabric.
We do it by leveraging the incredible talent NSCAD attracts to shine the light of truth on dark parts of our past.
NSCAD has a reputation as a place that supports active inquiry, which has made it a destination for people who are interested in challenging accepted truths.
The artists and makers who have taught and studied at NSCAD have a long history of bringing the complex issues of their generation to the forefront through their work.
I’m so proud to have started this journey here at NSCAD.
The institute will never “come alive” unless we fund the scholars and artists so that they can conduct their research at NSCAD, exchanging with each other, and the community. That means developing a consistent suite of fellowships. While essential to our existence, the important funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council does not enable us to animate the new Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery.
We are seeking investment from the NSCAD Community to fund fellowships that will have a major impact on our country and influence the national conversation that Canadians are having about racism and social justice, the legacy of slavery.
My hope is to welcome artists in residence to NSCAD starting this fall (2021) to begin creating works of art relating to the research we are undertaking.
One artist in residence would be wonderful; two would be transformational!
As a NSCAD community member, you understand better than most how pivotal art, design, and creativity can be in provoking much-needed, uncomfortable but necessary, dialogue.
That’s why I am optimistic that you will help us kickstart our efforts by donating to support the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery at NSCAD today.
If we can raise $10,000 during African Heritage Month, I’ll be able to create a position for one artist in residence starting in the fall. $20,000 will enable us to achieve our goal of bringing two artists to NSCAD.
As you are aware, artists are often the most compelling historians and storytellers. Their work invokes emotion. They provoke. They inspire. And they pave the way for social transformation.
And this is a conversation Canada needs to have….
That’s why it’s so important we fund these positions as soon as possible.
So please, if you are able, can I count on you to click the ‘Support the Institute’ link below to commit to a contribution of $15, $25, $50, $75, $100 or even $250 or more to help us drive change by funding these two positions?
Not only will your contribution help kickstart a national conversation about Canada’s painful heritage of slavery and racial discrimination, but your gift will be providing an opportunity to an artist (maybe two!) who has much to contribute to this much-needed dialogue.
The Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery is the first of its kind in Canada: your donation will help us launch this important initiative and demonstrate that the NSCAD community supports this bold step.
So please, if you are able to help, I urge you to do so.
Together, we can make a difference, and the country we love will be better, more equitable, and more respectful because of it.
Dr. Charmaine A. Nelson
Founding Director, Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery
P.S. We want to acknowledge everyone who helps us get the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery off the ground. That’s why everyone who contributes to support our work during African Heritage month will have their name prominently displayed on our virtual donor wall. To get your name on the wall, please send is a gift in any amount by clicking the ‘Support the Institute’ link above. Thank you.